updated 3/20/2008 11:01:23 AM ET 2008-03-20T15:01:23

Guests: Mike Murphy

DAVID GREGORY, HOST:  I‘m David Gregory, and you found it, the fast pace, the bottom line and every point of view in the room.  Tonight the politics of war, race, and class in America.  This is an historic campaign and the RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE rolls on. 

Welcome to RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.  Still in our premiere week.  Welcome.  Glad to have you here.  Our goal, be faster, smarter and better than any other campaign coverage around, and what we‘ve got is a panel that comes to play. 

“Air America‘s” Rachel Maddow, “The Washington Post‘s Gene Robinson, both MSNBC political analysts, and with us for the first time tonight, Republican strategist Mike Murphy, along with “Morning Joe” himself, we‘re talking about Joe Scarborough. 

We begin as we do every night with everyone‘s takes on the most important political story of the day, “The Headline.” 

I‘ll begin right here tonight on the war‘s five-year anniversary.  Iraq is not, not defining this campaign.  We thought it would, and it might yet, but the surge has kept the violence down and neutralized the debate here at home.  Instead of IEDs, we are obsessed with CDOs.  I just learned today, that means collateralized debt obligation.  Point is, it is the economy taking center stage.  The country still wants out of the war, but a lot more Americans are now a lot more patient than you might think.  That‘s my take. 

Mike Murphy, welcome.  Hit me with your headline tonight. 

MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Good to be here.  My headline is despite Obama‘s struggles, Hillary Clinton‘s hopes fade.  Michigan and Florida shutting down the idea of a revote, takes away her slim read, in my view, of a mathematical chance to win the nomination.  It‘s plumbing and wiring stuff, but ultimately, I think Barack Obama has a near lockdown in the Democratic nomination. 

GREGORY:  You mean that‘s it, Michigan and Florida was really her last hope? 

MURPHY:  Yes.  Her hopes were thin to begin with, and yes, she‘ll win Pennsylvania.  She won‘t get enough delegates.  I think he‘ll win North Carolina.  So she needed another path to line up a lot of big defeats of Obama to somehow create an environment where those wheeling and dealing superdelegates might switch.  And unless Obama completely implodes and walks away wearing handcuffs or something, I think it‘s very hard now to take the nomination away from him and later on I‘ll have a prediction about that. 

GREGORY:  And Mike, you don‘t see a path with Pennsylvania or Indiana, which Bill Clinton has been talking about today, as giving her that rationale to say I‘m still in this thing, superdelegates come my way? 

MURPHY:  Well, she can have the rationale, but I just don‘t think she‘ll have the votes.  She can win them both by a dozen points, won‘t make a mathematical difference.  She‘ll narrow it a little bit.  He‘s still be 90 to 100 to 110 ahead.  That‘s not enough to put all the Obama toothpaste back in the can.  And remember, what will Will.i.am do?  I don‘t think there‘ll be a video about it‘s cool that Obama‘s not the nominee.  The—she can keep fighting, like the Japanese soldier in ‘47 after the war but the math is the math. 

GREGORY:  All right.  Rachel, what have you got tonight? 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, on the anniversary of the war, David, I think you‘re right, that this has not been the focus of the campaign, because the focus of all the media coverage right now is on the Democratic side.  Fact remains that John McCain is planning on running on the war and I think it‘s going to be a tough road to hoe.  What we saw in the (INAUDIBLE) of the anniversary was both Bush and Cheney essentially making the exact same case for the way today that they made five years ago.  That means if this going to work politically for John McCain, he‘s got to hope that America is going to fall for the 2003 arguments all over again. 

GREGORY:  Yes, but wait a minute. 

MADDOW:  .and I think five years later we‘re not going to. 

GREGORY:  But Rachel, why do you think it‘s just time machine stuff?  If George Bush is tied to Saddam Hussein, isn‘t John McCain tied to Davis Petraeus?  In other words, isn‘t he potentially tied to the solution, the withdrawal of Iraq in a way that‘s totally different than George Bush? 

MADDOW:  Even if you talk about the surge being as marginally successful, or majorly successful, even if you think the surge is the best thing since sliced bread, we are still left with an inability to explain what victory would be in Iraq and why we‘re there and what 4,000 Americans have lost their lives for. 

GREGORY:  Joe Scarborough. 

MADDOW:  That‘s—sorry, go ahead. 

GREGORY:  .you‘re up next.  What‘s got you fired up? 

JOE SCARBOROUGH, “MORNING JOE” HOST:  Well, we may not be able to find victory, but we certainly can define chaos in Iraq if we get out as quickly as so the Democrats want.  But my headline today has nothing to do with plumbing, it has nothing to do with math.  It has everything to do with Democrats getting together and Denver in saying do we really want to put this guy up against John McCain? 

You look at some new polls that have come out today.  You see that in North Carolina Barack Obama‘s lead, it‘s fading.  It‘s a dead heat in North Carolina.  He was much further ahead before.  More importantly, though—and this is what Democrats are going to start looking at more than math or plumbing or the details of the wiring of delegate counts—look at Ohio. 

In Ohio, this is a state where John McCain is now beating Barack Obama in a

head—well, Hillary Clinton is beating John McCain in a head-to-head

match-up, and yet, when Barack Obama goes up against John McCain, he loses

by eight points. 

If anybody on this panel expects that to change a great deal after yesterday‘s speech, I think they‘re going to be disappointed, because Reverend Wright‘s statements are going to continue to keep popping up on YouTube and on all these other sites.  What does that mean?  That means we‘re going to see this repeated in Pennsylvania, head-to-head match-ups.  That means we‘re going to see this in Missouri.  That means we‘re going to see this in Florida.  And I wonder if Democrats in Denver will really select a candidate to go up against John McCain, who loses all the toss-up states by seven, eight, nine points if Hillary Clinton is beating John McCain in those same states. 

MADDOW:  Joe, at this point in the campaign, looking ahead to those head-to-heads is worthless.  They‘re not going to be worth the pixels they‘re printed on right now after three months—three months from now once the general elections are under way. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Rachel, I will tell you. 

MADDOW:  It just doesn‘t matter this far out. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I know that you‘re a Republican.  I know that you‘re plotting and scheming for a Republican victory in the fall, but Democratic superdelegates are smarter than that.  They‘re going to look at these head-to-head match-ups. 

GREGORY:  All right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  They are there specifically to win for the Democratic Party.  If they decide that. 

GREGORY:  Let me jump in here. 

SCARBOROUGH:  .that Obama cannot do that, then they‘ll go with Hillary. 

GREGORY:  Gene Robinson, what‘s your headline tonight? 

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Reaction to Barack Obama‘s speech about race yesterday.  It was an extraordinary speech. 

Joe, I do expect those numbers to change in Ohio and to change in Pennsylvania.  I thought it was an incredible moment in the history of race relations in this country, the modern history, at least.  And this—what I wrote this morning in my column, I still believe, which is that he may have pulled off something that seemed almost impossible.  He not only ventured into the minefield of race and made it back alive, but he also marked a path for the rest of us to follow, and I think he did. 

GREGORY:  Let me as you, Gene.  You said he made it back alive, that he survived this.  How do you know?  Is that a political judgment that remains to be seen? 

ROBINSON:  That‘s the seat of the pants judgment at this point. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Very seat of the pants, maybe. 

ROBINSON:  No, the speech has been very well received, and we‘re going to have to wait.  It‘s going to have to settle out and people are going to have to think about it for a while.  It was not a simplistic speech.  It was not a black-and-white speech, although it was about black and white.  It was a speech that had some shades of gray, that had some subtlety and nuance that‘s very difficult to convey on television, but I think people will get it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  By the way, it was accepted well, David and Gene, it was accepted well in Manhattan.  It was accepted well in Georgia.  How was it accepted in Queens?  How was it accepted in Southern Virginia, Youngstown, Ohio, Scranton, Pennsylvania?  That‘s the question. 

ROBINSON:  And that‘s what we‘re going to se. 

SCARBOROUGH:  .and that‘s when we find out whether or not it succeeds or not. 

ROBINSON:  That‘s what we‘ll see. 

GREGORY:  All right, we‘re going to jump in here.  We are going to find out if it succeeds later on. 

ROBERTS:  .experience in race is different. 

GREGORY:  I‘m going to get in here and say coming up, will McCain‘s gaffe on Iraq and al Qaeda be coming to an attack ad near you?  And later in the show, it‘s your turn to play with the panel.  Call us, as you‘ve been doing, 212-790-2299.  The e-mail, Race08@MSNBC.com

RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE coming right back. 

ANNOUNCER:  ROAD FOR THE WHITE HOUSE with DAVID GREGORY is sponsored by. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  Hillary loves Hoosiers.  The Clintons are pushing Indiana as the next big Democratic battleground, but can she win in Barack Obama‘s neighboring state? 

RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE returns right after this. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  And we‘re back.  This is the part of the show where we go “Inside the War Room” to look at the campaign‘s game plans for winning the White House and how they deal with the road bumps that come along the way. 

We‘re back with Rachel, Gene, Mike and Joe.  And first up, the ongoing battle over a Michigan revote.  In Detroit today, an ever-patriotic Hillary Clinton stirred the pot with Michigan voters. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL:  Nearly 2 ½ million Americans are in danger of being shut out of our Democratic process.  I think that‘s wrong, and frankly, it is un-American. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  Mike Murphy, it‘s un-American.  This is a last-ditch effort by Clinton here. 

MURPHY:  Last ditch, that is the key phrase.  This thing is done.  She is not going to get a revote.  Her campaign agreed not to participate.  She‘s going for straws.  I don‘t blame her, because she‘s cornered, but the math is the math. 

And I want to address something about the national polls.  I‘m actually with Rachel, my liberal friend, on that.  These national polls don‘t mean anything, particularly the tracking polls.  All they tell you is the 24-hour feedback on the noise and the media.  There‘s a great old saying that don‘t believe a single primary poll—national primary poll until after the first contest and don‘t believe a general election poll, national poll, until after both candidates have given their convention speech, and I‘m a big believer in that.  So right now the question for Hillary Clinton. 

GREGORY:  Joe, disenfranchise—Go ahead, Mike, finish. 

MURPHY:  No, no, the question for Hillary Clinton is, is there some big lightning bolt that can cause Obama to completely collapse?  Because that‘s the only way out now. 

GREGORY:  And disenfranchisement is an argument, Joe Scarborough, doesn‘t work? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, I think it works. 

GREGORY:  You do. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I think it works for Hillary Clinton when she goes to the national convention.  Anything that muddies the water for Hillary Clinton is good.  Again, the rules are the rules.  There‘s a reason why the Democrats said you have to get to a certain number to be the nominee.  There is a reason why the Democratic Party selected superdelegates, and it‘s for reasons such as these.  They want to make sure that when Barack Obama gets to Denver, he‘s got a few more delegates than Hillary Clinton, that he‘s the guy that can beat John McCain in the fall. 

For Democrats, that‘s all that really matters, Michigan, Florida, not having the vote.  That muddies up the water, that‘s good news for Hillary Clinton. 

GREGORY:  All right.  Next up “Inside the War Room,” the McCain gaffe.  While he was in Jordan yesterday, the presidential hopeful got a little bit confused.  Extremists, al Qaeda, it‘s all the same.  Well, not really.  Listen. 

What he confused was Al Qaeda, whether Iran was supporting Al Qaeda, Sunni al Qaeda.  That‘s certainly not the case.  McCain had to correct himself.  We‘ve got it now.  Listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ‘08 PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL:  It‘s common knowledge and has been reported in the media that al Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran.  That‘s well known, and it‘s unfortunate.  I‘m sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al Qaeda. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

               

GREGORY:  Rachel Maddow, this is our national security guy.  Is this an attack ad in the making? 

MADDOW:  Absolutely.  It would not be that big a deal, he might—his campaign might be able to get away with saying this is essentially a verbal typo, this was just an inadvertent gap if he hadn‘t done it multiple times and if this wasn‘t the whole grounds for his candidacy. 

I mean this is like Tom Tancredo mixing up and thinking that it‘s Canadians coming across the southern border and Mexicans coming across the northern.  This is his signature issue and to not be able to get this seventh grade level fact straight about it and to misstate it three different times in one week. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Seventh grade? 

MADDOW:  Any. 

SCARBOROUGH:  How many seventh graders know that al Qaeda is a Shiite. 

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW:  Any seventh grader with access to Yahoo! news can tell you that al Qaeda is Sunni and Iran is Shia.  I‘ve known it for five years.  I‘m surprised that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You‘ve got a great point. 

MADDOW:  .he doesn‘t know what it is. 

GREGORY:  All right.  Joe, Joe. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Look at the history of it all, she—Rachel‘s got a great point, because all of those Ronald Reagan gaffes ended up beating him in 1980 and ‘84, and when George W. Bush couldn‘t even name Musharraf back in 2000, that ended up beating—listen. 

MADDOW:  Joe, that‘s hilarious, but it‘s.. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s a fits of the odds.  I‘m not trying to be hilarious, I‘m just saying that this sort of gotcha, jeopardy politics may work with us and we may roll our eyes, but I‘ve got a feeling that the people that decide who get elected don‘t care about this any more than they care about. 

(CROSSTALK)

GREGORY:  Hold on. 

SCARBOROUGH:  The intelligence committee made the same mistake. 

(CROSSTALK)

GREGORY:  Hold on.  Mike Murphy, go ahead.  Mike Murphy, go ahead. 

MURPHY:  Yes.  John McCain is praying, is praying every day that this election comes down to expertise on foreign policy.  Barack Obama‘s talked about paratroopers in Islamabad, for heaven sakes.  So this is the gap.  It‘s a speed bump.  He corrected himself.  Everybody knows McCain‘s strong suit. 

GREGORY:  All right. 

MURPHY:  .is his foreign policy stuff.  The question is the economy and. 

(CROSSTALK)

GREGORY:  OK.  I‘ve got one more item—hold on, I got one more item to get into the “Inside the War Room.”  Today‘s last look behind the campaign curtain.  Indiana is the new New Hampshire, at least to the Clinton campaign.  While campaigning for his wife in the Hoosier state, Bill Clinton delivered his very latest plea for votes, saying, quote, “We need your help.  I believe she will win a big victory in Pennsylvania.  I believe she will win in West Virginia and Kentucky.  Nobody believes she can win in Indiana because it borders Illinois.  If you show them they‘re wrong, she‘ll be the nominee and she‘ll be the president.” 

Gene Robinson, he‘s laying it on the line again. 

ROBINSON:  Well, he did it in Texas and you know, pulled it out.  But Indiana looks a lot like Ohio, but it is next to Illinois, so it could be a competitive state.  I would think you‘d have to give the edge to Hillary Clinton there at this point.  But you know, we‘ll see. 

GREGORY:  All right.  Coming up, a “Smart Take” on the Clinton camp learning silence is golden.  And as Clinton and Obama continue to fight for the nomination, John McCain is rising in the polls.  New head-to-head match-ups next.  Stay right there. 

This is RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  Welcome back.  Time now for “Smart Takes” here on RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.  We take these “Smart Takes” to our panel.  We‘ve got our fingers on the smartest blogs, columns and polls.  Bringing the “Smart Takes” to everybody, first up, columnist Dick Morris on Obama and his pastor Reverend Wright.  He writes the following, “Americans will gradually realize that Obama stuck by Wright as part of a need to get ahead.  They will chalk up to pragmatism why he was so close to such a preacher.  As they come to realize that Obama doesn‘t agree with Wright but used to—used him to get started, they will be more forgiving.” 

Murphy, that‘s a conventional take, but that was not Barack Obama‘s take in his speech yesterday. 

MURPHY:  Yes.  No, Obama, I thought it was a beautiful, impressive speech, but politically, he took a big hit.  It‘s going to be a problem for him all the way.  Does it cost him the election?  I don‘t know.  It‘s too early to tell.  But Obama in his historic position as the first serious African-American candidate has to be—like Caesar‘s wife, he has to go above and beyond.  And while the speech made elegant arguments in the street politics in the swing politics and the great lakes, not enough.  Too little too late. 

GREGORY:  Rachel, if you believe this, if you buy this from Dick Morris, the idea here is that kind of a wink and a nod, no, I don‘t really believe what I told you yesterday, I just did it for political reasons. 

MADDOW:  Yes, I don‘t know why Dick Morris thinks that voters think about their candidates that way.  I don‘t think that voters look at exit polls, for example, and decide, OK, I‘m a black voter and I don‘t want to support this guy because lots of white people are supporting him.  I‘m a white voter, I don‘t want to support this guy because lots of black people are.  I want to support him because he‘s ruthlessly ambitious and did something he doesn‘t believe. 

I just don‘t think we think about things that complicated.  I think we were looking for leaders who are strong, who inspire us.  And I think that the political verdict remains to be heard on Obama‘s speech yesterday, but it was a historic speech. 

GREGORY:   All right.  Next up, Dick Morris may say that Americans will forgive, but “The New York Times‘” Maureen Dowd says today they will not forget, quote, “Obama may have stanched the bleeding, but he did not heal the wounds.  His naive and willful refusal to come to terms earlier with the Reverend Wright‘s anti-American and anti-white and pro-Farrakhan sentiments echoing his naive and willful refusal to come to terms earlier with the ramifications of this friendship with sleazy fundraiser Tony Rezko will not be forgotten because of one unforgettable speech.” 

Joe, she makes an argument that he doesn‘t learn quickly enough, that he‘s slow to respond because on some of these things, he doesn‘t think it‘s a real issue. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, anybody that second guesses Barack Obama‘s political instincts at this point in the campaign has a lot more courage than I do.  He has proven us wrong so many times, I hope he proves us wrong.  I hope he proves me wrong again.  That being said, she does bring up something important in that column.  She talks about the anti-Americanism of Reverend Wright. 

I don‘t think in the end it‘s all those crazy things he had so say that sounds like Louis Farrakhan, I think it‘s the anti-Americanism, the USKKKA, and also, of course, talking about 9/11 and saying that we deserved that.  Those are the things that if Barack Obama gets tripped up, those will be the things that trip him up.  I don‘t think the crazy race statements by the minister. 

GREGORY:  All right.  Up next, the “Atlantic‘s” Mark Ammender (ph) on what might be the Clinton‘s best move yet.  Quote, “I‘m told that campaign manager Maggie Williams issued an edict to staff members and surrogates and top fundraisers urging them to hold their tongues.  That the Clinton campaign was able to keep to this discipline may turn out to be the most consequential, tactical move they have made in months.” 

Gene Robinson, they‘ve got nothing to say or think that Obama‘s hurting himself? 

ROBINSON:  Well, I think they just want to let Obama play this out.  What can they say that could possibly help Hillary Clinton?  Could she jump into the race controversy and say something that would actually advance her campaign?  It‘s doubtful she‘s going to get a lot of African-American votes back and I don‘t think she can really help herself with any other sector of the electorate. 

You know let somebody—let some spokesman come out and say, gee, that was a good speech by Obama and leave it at that.  And then I think Obama has to just hope that people can understand, you know, hate the sin, love the sinner, can understand why he didn‘t completely cut off Reverend Wright. 

GREGORY:  Right.  And finally, some new polls are in favor of John McCain.  According to the latest Reuters/Zogby hypothetical match-up, McCain leads Obama 46-40 -- well, 180 from last month when the numbers were flipped.  And went up against Clinton, McCain ahead by eight. 

Mike Murphy, you started to talk there.  First on this.  Anything to this on this change in numbers?  McCain‘s got a good ride now.  He‘s not being scrutinized. 

MURPHY:  I‘ve got to stick with what I believe.  All these national polls right now completely meaningless.  Funhouse mirror stuff.  All it measures is the latest media noise.  Don‘t believe anything. 

GREGORY:  Rachel Maddow, anything? 

MADDOW:  I totally agree.  The head-to-head match-ups at this point are pointless because the election hasn‘t started.  John McCain has huge favorables right now because the default position of the press towards him is, as I‘ve said before, essentially romantic.  The default position of John McCain if he‘s not getting hit is that his favorables is going to go up, up, up, because of how much mainstream reporters like him. 

GREGORY:  All right.  But aside from that, Mike Murphy, you look at the polling that shows that the Republicans are in the tank when it comes to voter attitudes and that McCain runs strong or ahead of the Democratic opponents here. 

MURPHY:  Yes.  That. 

GREGORY:  He‘s got a name brand that works for him and he‘s in a groove right now where he‘s not being torn apart. 

MURPHY:  That‘s the one big insight.  McCain is a different kind of Republican.  If he runs that kind of campaign, I think he‘d beat either one of them, and Barack has definitely taken a hit, but bigger issues are going to grab this race later when voters start paying as much attention as we are now.  Still, McCain is the one Republican I think can win in this environment and he‘s off to a good start. 

GREGORY:  All right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But you know, the Democrats, these polls do matter for the superdelegates. 

GREGORY:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And if it matters to the superdelegates it matters to the story. 

(CROSSTALK)

GREGORY:  All right.  Let me take a break.  Guy, let me jump in.  Let me jump in, let me jump in.  Got to take a break. 

Coming up next, Bill Clinton tells voters change is for the rich, while Hillary is for the regular people.  Will talking about class divide keep Clintons alive for the White House? 

Plus, five years at war, but how much will Iraq matter in November? 

That‘s next in “3 Questions.” 

Stay right here.  It‘s RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  We‘re back on RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.  And our panel, Air America‘s Rachel Maddow, the “Washington Post‘s” Gene Robinson, both MSNBC political analysts, Republican strategist Mike Murphy, with us for the first time, and of course, “MORNING JOE,” Joe Scarborough. 

Now the part of the show where our panel takes up the three questions.  Number one, Bill Clinton said something rather remarkable while in Indiana yesterday.  Listen to this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 

You‘ve got to elect her, people like you, people in the heartland.  The wealthier Democrats who don‘t need a president but need a feeling of change, they‘re by and large not for her.  And, you know, the press has until the last few weeks—has been severely tilted and admittedly so, not for her.  But she just keeps going on. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  Class warfare.  Joe Scarborough, is that what they‘re up to? 

SCARBOROUGH:  I don‘t know if it‘s class warfare or not, but the Clintons know that progressive, wealthier Democrats are lining up behind Barack Obama in overwhelming numbers.  They also know that blue-collar workers making 50,000 dollars or less are much more likely to be Hillary Clinton supporters.  And that‘s something that we‘ve seen in Ohio results.  And again, these Great Lake swing states that Hillary Clinton is more likely to win than Barack Obama. 

GREGORY:  Mike Murphy, but this is a very targeted message here with the states remaining. 

MURPHY:  Yes, he is trying exact—Joe‘s right, they‘re going for the

downscale blue-collar vote.  But it is class warfare, clearly!  He

basically said the rich are for Obama, but us working folks—even though

Clinton‘s a multi-zillionaire now—are for Hillary.  Again, these are all

I can just see his tax accountant watching this thing, staring at the cable—

(CROSS TALK) 

MURPHY:  Weak message is because they‘re in trouble.

SCARBOROUGH:  But the rich are for Obama, right?

MURPHY:  Well, Obama‘s support is wealthier than Hillary‘s support.  It doesn‘t mean the rich are for him.  Frankly, if you look at all Americans on a big income bell curve, the very richest Americans now are more Democratic than Republicans. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Right. 

MURPHY:  It‘s one of the great myths.  But Clinton did pull out the old chestnut of class warfare, but he‘s like a trout flopping in the frying pan.  The numbers aren‘t there.  They‘re losing.  They‘re throwing in the kitchen sink.  It will be over soon.  That‘s my prediction.  I‘ve been saying Obama for 18 months. 

GREGORY:  Our second question brings us back around to Iraq, five years later.  Does it really matter in this election or will voters be thinking of anything and everything else when they pull that lever come November?  Rachel, what do you say? 

MADDOW:  I think with that Osama bin Laden tape that we just heard from Melissa has just been released; I think we‘ve seen 140,000 to 160,000 Americans still in Iraq, with the death toll still rising, with the news still there for people who choose to pay attention to it, and who choose to air it—I think that we‘re never going to get too far from Iraq. 

And I also think that John McCain‘s going to run on Iraq.  He‘s going to run as the war president.  He‘s going to run maybe not so much as the third term of Bush/Cheney, but as the first term.  I think he‘s going to back and make all those 2003 arguments again. 

GREGORY:  Gene Robinson, is there still the passion for a pullout after the surge has neutralized some of the violence?  Do you think Americans are more patient now, willing to give this more time? 

ROBINSON:  Not really.  I actually—you know, people here in Washington and people in New York and in the media centers, you know, our attention span is fairly short.  And so we go in and out of kind of obsessing about the war.  Out in the heartland, where those blue-collar voters reside, guess what?  Those blue collar voters have family members who are in Iraq, who have been caught in the stop loss change in deployment, who are serving these really long deployments there. 

Families are hurting.  It‘s a big issue out in the country, and Obama needs to speak about it in those terms, I think. 

GREGORY:  Joe Scarborough, you‘ve got David Petraeus coming to town this month, and is going to be talking about troop rotation, troop levels.  That‘s going to kick it up a notch. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All the poll numbers show that people in middle America are more patient with this war than they were a year ago.  But here‘s the irony of it all; for John McCain, if things get worse, you would expect that to be bad news for the Republicans.  But if things get worse, that‘s probably good news for the Republicans.  It‘s just like speaking of Osama bin Laden. 

Rachel brought up Osama bin Laden.  He had his take two days, three days before the general election.  Many people believe, including John Kerry, that that helped elect George W. Bush.  So it‘s hard to say how less violence—I think actually, the more stable Iraq is, in the end, the more it helps Barack Obama, because he can talk about the economy.  He can talk about change. 

MADDOW:  I think the common wisdom is that whenever you‘re talking about national security, whenever you‘re talking about war, it‘s good for Republicans.  I think that common wisdom may be starting to turn, though, because I do think that Americans are sick of this war and they‘re sick of what it‘s doing, if nothing else, to our military readiness, and so—

SCARBOROUGH:  Give us Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. 

MADDOW:  It‘s not just talking about national security.  It‘s about being smart about it, and that‘s going to make the difference in this election for the Democrats. 

GREGORY:  I agree with you, Rachel, it‘s not just about national security as a blanket issue, but it‘s a judgment issue. 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

GREGORY:  And Mike Murphy, if you have a judgment debate about this big, bad world out there, chapter two of the war on terror, what happens with Iraq, who wins the judgment argument? 

MURPHY:  Oh, I think that‘s totally a McCain argument and he‘ll dominate that.  I mean, the Republicans—excuse me, the Democrats want a time machine.  They want to go back to 2006 when the war was going badly and it was a great single-issue election.  They‘re not going to get it this time.  The war‘s still going to be important, but McCain, more than anybody in politics, has been right.  Barack Obama is untested.  That will be the debate and the Republicans can win that debate on the war. 

MADDOW:  Can this still be a good thing for John McCain if he doesn‘t know the one major thing you need to know about geo-politics and terrorism.  He doesn‘t know that Iran is Shia. 

MURPHY:  Come on. 

MADDOW:  He doesn‘t know that Iran is Shia.  It was a gaffe he made three times in one week.  It‘s not a mistake.  He doesn‘t understand it. 

GREGORY:  I‘ve got a third big question here, and that is—and it speaks to the continued fallout from Obama‘s pastor Reverend Wright: no matter what you thought of his speech yesterday, in the end, will we look at Reverend Wright as the man who killed Obama-mania, Gene Robinson? 

ROBINSON:  You know, I don‘t know.  I guess it‘s possible that we will.  I kind of doubt it.  I think Obama will kind of rise or fall more on his own merits.  People in the country are getting to know him.  I think Reverend Wright and his comments will be a factor in some people‘s judgments about him, but I don‘t think he will be the definitive guy. 

GREGORY:  Yes, but it‘s the buzz, right?  It‘s the buzz factor about all of this that Obama has capitalized on.  Is he losing it, Murphy? 

MURPHY:  Yes, I think sainthood is over, but the race is not. 

SCARBOROUGH:  David, if Barack Obama wins this nomination, he will be giving his speech, his acceptance speech on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King‘s “I Have a Dream Speech.”  If he survives, then I think Obama-mania kicks off again in Denver, and a lot of people may be very excited going into the fall. 

GREGORY:  Rachel, you‘ve got to know that there‘s two things that Obama‘s counting on, right?  He‘s counting on people thinking about what he said in totality, and in wanting to engage in a broader conversation about race that strips away all the conventional thinking about politics.  But the second thing he knows is that Republicans are out there and they could make an issue about this.  And you can see the ad, can‘t you?  The ad that shows a clip of Reverend Wright saying “God Damn America,” and then the clip of Barack Obama saying, “I can no sooner disown him than I could my own white grandmother?” 

MADDOW:  Yes, and if the Democrats are smart, what they will do is they‘ll follow it up immediately on the same channel with the same amount of time with a clip of John McCain saying how proud he is to get Pastor John Hagee‘s endorsement, and then Hagee sitting there saying that Katrina was delivered to New Orleans because New Orleans deserved it. 

GREGORY:  Hagee also talked about Catholics as being a cult. 

MADDOW:  Yes, the Catholic Church being the great whore.

MURPHY:  I‘ll predict it right now. 

MADDOW:  All of these guys have not only endorsed John McCain, but both sought and said he was honored by their endorsement.  He campaigned with Rod Parsley. 

GREGORY:  Murphy, go. 

MURPHY:  In October we‘re not going to see any of those ads.  We‘re going to see ads about the economy and ads about foreign policy experience going back and forth.  I think this is the summer storm.  It will hurt Obama, but it‘s not going to be the game-changer. 

GREGORY:  I do want one of those Reverend Wright tunics, by the way. 

I thought they were quite stylish. 

GREGORY:  Up next, we‘re going to take a break here.  It is your turn.  You‘ve sent us thousands of e-mails.  Our panel takes up some of your questions right after the break. 

Then our panel predictions; the fight over Michigan is escalating.  What Rachel thinks will happen tomorrow.  Don‘t go away.  It‘s RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  Welcome back to RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.  In the past week, you‘ve sent us over 8,000 e-mails and flooded our voice mail.  We had a great time reading all these, and now it‘s your term to play with the panel. 

And still with us, Rachel Maddow, Eugene Robinson, Mike Murphy and Joe Scarborough.  Many of the responses today came from Florida and Michigan.  Here‘s a sample of what one of you had to say.  Listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m a Floridian, and I must say, you know what?  We want our vote to count.  Don‘t punish us, you know, because those who moved up the date, those are the people you should have the problem with.  Florida residents should all have the opportunity to have their vote heard. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  Joe Scarborough, you‘ve got to feel bad for voters who feel that way, but it‘s—you know, rules are rules here, and the party was clear about it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What do you do?  You‘re exactly right.  It was the Republican governor and legislature that moved up the date.  They broke the rules.  It hurt the Democrats.  But I can tell you, there is misplaced anger, perhaps, with the Democratic National Committee, but there is anger among Florida Democrats.  I‘ve heard it for a very long time.  My Democratic friends in Congress have heard it for a long time. 

I don‘t know that this is a big issue in the fall, but my gosh, if I had to pick a state to upset a group of people, Florida would probably be on the bottom of that list. 

GREGORY:  Unbelievable, right?  All right, in light of Reverend Wright‘s remarks, an e-mailer wants to know this: why has no one asked John McCain to distance himself from some of the reprehensible characters who have endorsed him?  For instance, Trent Lott and Pastor John Hagee, to name a few?  Rachel, you‘ve been talking about this today and wondering if there‘s some kind of double standard here. 

MADDOW:  I do think there is a double standard.  I think the Republican party played in the trough in a very public and acknowledged way with the religious right, and that seems to have inoculated them from any questions about the extremism of the people that they really have dragged into the political arena.  On the Democratic side, everybody‘s pastor is fair game, but on the Republican side, it‘s amazing—

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, come on!

MADDOW:  No, Joe, I‘m serious. 

SCARBOROUGH:  No, no, no, this is not a serious argument. 

MADDOW:  He campaigns—Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  This is a ridiculous argument when you consider that Barack Obama is talking about his spiritual adviser for 20 years.  Hagee didn‘t baptize McCain‘s kids. 

MADDOW:  OK, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Hagee didn‘t marry McCain.  John McCain‘s first book wasn‘t based on a sermon by Hagee.  This is a silly—

MADDOW:  Tell me this, who has John McCain identified in this campaign

season as his spiritual guide?  Who has named?  He named him as the

spiritual guide and then he did campaign events with him in Ohio.  His name

He said his spiritual guide is Rod Parsley.  Right?  Therefore, we should ask questions about Rod Parsley. 

SCARBOROUGH:  John McCain does not have a spiritual adviser.

MADDOW:  He said it, according to him.

SCARBOROUGH:  The reason why progressives in Manhattan like John McCain so much is because John McCain is not wed to the religious right.  If you can laugh that off—

MADDOW:  No, listen, Joe—

(CROSS TALK) 

MADDOW:  I‘m quoting John McCain.  I don‘t know why this is getting asserted as a misquote. 

MURPHY:  I‘ll buy that argument. 

GREGORY:  Hold on one second guys.  John McCain sought out the endorsement of Hagee, wasn‘t a situation like Obama, where he was his preacher for a long time.  He sought out this endorsement, despite his views. 

MADDOW:  That‘s exactly right.  And what we‘ve got there is a situation between public actions and private actions.  In Barack Obama‘s private life, he has a pastor.  In John McCain‘s public life, in which he is running for office, he sought and received and said he was publicly honored by the political endorsement of two pastors who are really controversial. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It just not going to work. 

MADDOW:  It‘s the truth!

GREGORY:  We‘re going to move on. 

SCARBOROUGH:  John McCain also doesn‘t know the difference between Sunnis and Shia after he‘s been awake for 48 hours.  Boy, that‘s a winning platform. 

ROBINSON:  It‘s 3:00 in the morning.  Who was that on the phone again? 

Was it Sunni, Shia?  I didn‘t know—didn‘t catch their name. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, boy, you know, I feel Missouri switching over to Obama now.  Give me a break.

(CROSS TALK)  

GREGORY:  Melissa in California lobs the panel this question.  I think this won‘t cause as much debate.  Listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m curious what your panelists think is the most important quality for a president to have.  Hillary Clinton‘s campaign has brought up the issue of experience, but in your panel‘s experience or opinion, is experience the most important quality or judgment? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY:  Mike Murphy, go. 

MURPHY:  Well, I think experience can be overrated.  There are people in the Democratic party who have been wrong for 50 years.  I think it‘s a combination of experience but also vision, wisdom, and honor.  And I think that‘s McCain. 

GREGORY:  Joe Scarborough? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Really, I—actually, I may surprise some people.  I think it‘s judgment.  I think it‘s the type of person, how he or she makes decisions.  The thing I‘ve been most impressed about—and I have not been throwing ticker tape parades for Barack Obama over the past couple days.  The thing that I like so much about Barack Obama is when there is a problem, he doesn‘t parse the issue.  He doesn‘t go away.  He doesn‘t fight it for two or three years.  He gets out in front of it.  I like how this man operates in crisis situations.  He‘s been very impressive how he does that. 

That‘s the type of president we need, that is not afraid to throw out the rule book and say you know what, I‘m just going to step right up.  I‘m going to take this crisis head on.  I think that‘s refreshing. 

GREGORY:  Next e-mail.  A New Yorker writes this: “we want to know who a candidate‘s VP choice will be.  Why should we be asked to bet the farm again without knowing whether we are going to end up with another Cheney/Rumsfeld/Libby team of “Arrested Development” adolescents long on power mongering and short on smarts.”

Gene, they should know the VP choice earlier on. 

ROBINSON:  Yes, but that‘s just not going to happen.  We‘re not going to go to a British system, where the opposition party has a whole shadow cabinet, and you know what position everybody‘s going to occupy if they get into power.  You know, our candidates like to and feel they need to keep their options open, and who knows who will be left standing and left viable at the end. 

I do not, however, think there is going to be an Obama/Clinton or Clinton/Obama ticket.  I think either way, I think it‘s quite unlikely. 

GREGORY:  Mike, go ahead. 

MURPHY:  Yes, I agree with that.  I think if Barack picked her, he‘d need a food tester.  There‘s no way she‘d take it and no way he should give it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s awful. 

GREGORY:  Hey, what about this; I‘m warned that behind closed doors in New York with Mike Bloomberg yesterday, John in California wants to know is Al Gore planning a third-party candidacy with Michael Bloomberg as the VP?  Rachel, now we‘re stretching. 

MADDOW:  And will the Easter Bunny be the secretary of defense?  No.  I think the prolonged and pointless nature of the Democratic primary system at this point is leading to fantasies that involve third-party candidates, that involve Al Gore, maybe that even involve Michael Bloomberg, which is hard to believe.  But I think this is pure fiction. 

GREGORY:  Joe Scarborough, how far-fetched is this idea?  When you have the Democrats headed towards a stalemate, isn‘t the possibility of somebody riding in on the white horse still something to talk about? 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Bloomberg was going to make his decision in February.  He would get on the ballots in March.  And in February, it looked like Barack Obama was going to be the nominee.  He was change.  He was the third way.  Now, with Hillary Clinton getting back in the fight and possibly closing, perhaps he‘d be thinking about it again. 

I‘d guess—I don‘t know the rules, but I‘d guess it‘s way too late. 

ROBINSON:  Yes.

GREGORY:  Gene Robinson, Mike Bloomberg knows how to keep his hat in the ring, though, doesn‘t he? 

ROBINSON:  Well, he keeps his name out there.  But in the final analysis, Al Gore is a Democrat, number one.  He‘s not going to run on any third-party ticket.  And number two, I take Bloomberg at his word.  He says he‘s not going to run; he‘s not going to run.  I think it‘s awfully late to start that.   

MADDOW:  He‘s taken himself out of it, I think, pretty clearly. 

GREGORY:  We‘ll take a break here.  Still ahead, panel predictions.  Mike Murphy is making a bold one; the date Hillary Clinton will give up her bid for the Democratic nomination and Barack Obama will become the presumptive nominee.  Stay right there.  You‘re watching RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GREGORY:  We‘re back on the RACE with our predictions from the panel. 

Mike Murphy, you are first up.  What do you see? 

MURPHY:  All righty.  Well, I think Hillary Clinton will get out of the race two or three days after the North Carolina primary in early May.  Whatever she wins delegate-wise in Pennsylvania, I think Barack wins North Carolina and will take 60 percent of those delegates back.  It then becomes mathematically really bad. 

She does not want to blow up the party at the convention because she wants to run again in four years if he loses.  So time for a salvage operation, and the Hillary Clinton campaign will be over by the 10th of May.  A year ago I predicted Barack, so I‘m sticking with it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Mike Murphy, were you one of those guys that predicted

Bill Clinton was going to resign by the end of the week when Monica came

out?  That‘s not how the Clintons operate.  They continue.  They will fight

--

MURPHY:  I‘m ready to bet money. 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK, baby. 

MURPHY:  Taking cash. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I will call you offline, dude.  I will call you offline.  It‘s not going to happen.  In part, it‘s not going to happen because of my prediction.  I think that Barack Obama‘s poll numbers are going to continue to drop.  They‘re going to drop in North Carolina.  They‘re going to drop in these swing states in head-to-head match ups against John McCain.  They‘re going to drop in Pennsylvania.  In fact, they‘re going to keep dropping until something dramatic happens on the campaign trail that changes the narrative of this race.  Who knows? 

GREGORY:  All right, but if that‘s true, Rachel, if it‘s true that Hillary Clinton drops out, how does that work exactly?  I mean, does anybody expect her to really pull a plug on herself?  Who‘s going to make that decision? 

MADDOW:  This is part of my prediction for tomorrow.  I think tomorrow is huge Democratic fist fight day over primaries that we didn‘t know were going to happen.  Number one, we‘ve got to have the big fight about Michigan, because the Michigan legislature has a limited time to make a decision about whether to redo that.  And today in the “New York Times,” the governor of Tennessee, Phil Bredesen, made this incredibly smart proposal, which is that the super delegates essentially be forced into a primary, and that it happens some time soon, so that there is a decision-making moment well before Denver. 

I think those things are ripe to be fought over in the Democratic party and those could mean the end of the race. 

GREGORY:  Why does Obama—why does he think it‘s a good idea to stand in the way, to throw up these road blocks to a revote in Michigan, Rachel? 

MADDOW:  I think that right now Barack Obama is ahead.  I think that right now both of them realize their chances of winning the general recede with every passing day, with John McCain getting no attention and the two of them tearing each other down.  I think if either one of them wants to win, they both have an interest in stopping this process sooner rather than later, and the only way to do that would be I think to give up on Florida and Michigan, and try to do this super delegate primary or some other way or to stop it. 

GREGORY:  Gene, hold onto your prediction for a minute, because I still want to keep Mike‘s on the table here, which is, if it‘s plausible, do you believe that somebody would have to intervene to get Clinton to give up? 

ROBINSON:  I still don‘t believe there is anybody who can intervene to make Hillary Clinton give up if she doesn‘t want to give up.  And I‘m not sure she‘s going to give up that easily.  I think she‘s going to consider it close enough to, you know, take it through May and maybe all the way to the convention.  I don‘t really see this ending any time soon. 

MADDOW:  But don‘t you think the super delegate primary thing could be the thing that everybody‘s been looking for?

ROBINSON:  It could be, but all these schemes for dealing with Michigan and Florida are really kind of Rube Goldberg.  They‘re supposed to be Democratic, but in some respects, they‘re all anti-Democratic, and they‘re not—

GREGORY:  Murphy, your point is at some point she‘s got to think about a four-year plan from now? 

MURPHY:  Yes, it‘s a four-year plan.  And that‘s a hiccup in presidential ambition years.  So she plans the four-year thing.  One thing about this super delegate primary, you know who hates that idea?  Super delegates, because they want to maintain their power to operate until the end, and it‘s going to be very hard to put that toothpaste back in the tube.  Looks good on paper, very hard to do. 

MADDOW:  Right down to the sea bed.

SCARBOROUGH:  So Hillary Clinton drops out of the race when she still has a chance to win the race with super delegates in Denver?  I don‘t see it. 

GREGORY:  We‘ve got to get Gene in here.  Gene, hit us with a prediction. 

ROBINSON:  Yes, I‘m not predicting the Democratic race.  I‘m predicting John McCain, the next time someone asks him about Sunnis and Shias, he‘s going to say just ask Lieberman, OK? 

GREGORY:  That is the question, what does Lieberman get out of this deal?  This guy is traipsing the Earth with this guy. 

ROBINSON:  It‘s his old friend John McCain.  Who knows, you think Joe will run for vice president again?  I don‘t know. 

SCARBOROUGH:  John McCain was by his side in Florida every day. 

ROBINSON:  Joe-mentum for the ticket. 

GREGORY:  I‘m David Gregory.  That does it for us on RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.  Thanks for watching.  Hope you got something out of it and had some fun too.  We‘re going to see you back here again tomorrow, same time, 6:00 p.m. Eastern on MSNBC.  Stay right here.  “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews coming up right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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